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Caring for an Abandoned Kitten

General Care
If you find an abandoned kitten, get it to the vet right away for its first examination.  Once it has been tested for disease, you have a big job on your hands!  Your kitten is going to need round the clock care.  He needs to be entertained, supervised, and taught basic things that his mom would normally do. Introduce toys early - if your kitten is too young he won't want to play, but he'll soon get interested and entertain you with hours of kitten cuteness.  You need to provide a warm, safe place for him to sleep.  This can be a bed, a large box with blankets, or your bed (our kitten's choice).  Make sure to kitten proof your house so that there are no small pieces of anything he can choke on, nothing sharp he can cut himself on, and get wires under control.  You need to teach your kitten early that wires are not toys - get toys and teach him those are "good" and other things are "bad."

Feeding
If your cat is under five weeks of age it will need to be fed Mother's Replacement Milk (found at any pet store) from a bottle several times a day. Feed your kitten in the same area so that it will return to this area when hungry.  Never hold your kitten on its back while feeding - this can produce air bubbles in his tummy.  Hold him in your arms and place the bottle at an angle facing down and he will gladly eat it up. 

At five to six weeks of age, buy canned food and mix the Mother's Replacement Milk with it so that there is more milk than food.  Gradually change this ratio, decreasing the amount of milk, until your kitten is able to eat the wet food by itself.  At this point you need to start providing water for him to drink and you can start introducing dry food slowly.  Your kitten should be fed a high quality kitten food - a mixture of dry and wet food - until he his one year of age.  You can then switch him over to adult food.

Litterbox
Chances are if your kitten was abandoned, he doesn't know how to use a litter box. You'll need to put him in his box and get a warm wet washcloth and rub his bottom until he eliminates.  If he doesn't, take him out and put him back in after about 20-30 minutes.  After he eliminates, teach him how to cover it by holding his paws and scratching litter over his feces.  If he doesn't want to do it, don't push.  He'll start to do it by instinct within time.  Litter training is a hard thing to do with kittens, but one day it will just click with them.  With our first kitten (who was abandoned at two weeks of age), we tried everything we could for a little over a week, but she resisted us and kept running back to the corner that she had decided was her potty.  One day we were watching television and she ran over, jumped into the litter box (which we had put near the spot she kept going), used it and then went back to playing.  We didn't have a problem after that.  So don't give up hope, they do catch on even if they don't act like it.

Health
Your kitten will need a lot of vet visits during its first year of his life to get him up-to-date on all of his vaccinations.  When you take him to the vet for the first time you're veterinarian will get you set up on a schedule. Make sure to check all of the reminders the vet gives you about upcoming appointments - your kitten's health depends on it.  At six months of age your kitten will need to be spayed/neutered.  Some hospitals also offer to declaw your cat at this time, but this is not a healthy procedure for your cat. Educate yourself before allowing your vet to perform any procedure on your cat.

If your kitten is unfortunate enough to have fleas, refer to our parasites section to read about an effective way to wash the fleas off.